Starting school can be daunting for parents and young children getting ready to take their place in a junior kindergarten classroom, but there are resources available to help ease the transition.
The Get Ready for School program, run by Strong Start, focuses on giving young kids, and their parents, the confidence and skills needed to feel comfortable in their first year in the school system.
Kirsten Carr is the assistant program coordinator for the 44-week program, and says Get Ready For School is all about giving new students who may be struggling, that extra leg up.
“We focus really heavily on helping the children with their vocabulary development, increasing their knowledge of different words through the use of a lot of hands on materials,” she said, adding that one of the activities really makes a difference in the children’s’ lives. “We really work on identifying their names and they are super proud when they can show their mom or dad that they can come into the classroom and find their nametag all by themselves.”
Although the kids are learning plenty of new information, Carr says the classes are all fun.
“We change things up to keep things fun and silly,” she said. “Little do they know that we are teaching them … as they do it.”
The program has never been run in Elmira before, but currently has classes running in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, and after much volunteer advocacy, will start at the Kids and I Resource Centre. Registration for the free program is on Nov. 2 at Woolwich Community Services, and is limited to 20 children. Carr has already heard of parents calling for more information on how to get their kids in there.
“Apparently (the people at the Kids and I Resource Centre) are already getting phone calls and a lot of interest,” she said. “They are a bit worried about it filling up…but, I am hopeful and I think it will be off to a great start.”
The Get Ready For School program has already seen success in other locations. Parents have given Carr and other program workers, plenty of positive feedback.
“From parents, they are absolutely thrilled,” she said. “They are amazed at the growth in their children and not necessarily all in terms of their phonological awareness. In most cases, it is the change in their child’s ability to make friends, to independently walk into a classroom, to find success in their growth in vocabulary, or if they are a child that came into the program with little to no English skills, parents are astounded that all of a sudden their children are speaking to them in English.”
Strong Start focuses on communities that may need that little extra help, and parents that don’t have the tools to teach their children the skills and confidence they need to be successful in the classroom. In this case, the charity is hoping to attract some rural families and parents looking for help.
“We felt that there was value into getting out into those rural areas and trying to target some of the Mennonite families and other families in Elmira that could benefit from a free program for their children and help them get that strong start into junior kindergarten and a formal school setting,” she said, mentioning that there is also some food provided with the program, especially for kids who may not get enough to eat at home. “Strong Start does provide fruits and vegetables for snacks. If we are in a location where there are hungry children – I know in Elmira we are in the afternoons – so, if we start to notice that the kids haven’t had lunch, then we will provide a little something extra. (It) can really make the difference in attention and you can’t learn when you are hungry.”
The Get Ready For School program won’t start until the new year, with the first class on Feb. 8 and runs until June. Registration will be run at Woolwich Community Services on Nov. 2 and will work on a first-come, first-serve basis.
For more information, visit www.strongstart.ca. Parents are also encouraged to reach out to Carr at email@example.com.